Hollywood Does Smart; Celeb-Scientists That Deserve Our Attention

Enough of the misconception that Hollywood actors are all about brawns and beauty. Looking into the educational backgrounds or reading the famous personal essays of some of the hottest stars the screen has ever seen, you will be surprised to find out that some of the most brilliant thespians actually had led the life of a Science geek at some point in their history.

In fact, many of them actually have completed degrees and PhD’s to make you wonder why they even chose the world of acting in the first place. Here are some of the most intelligent actors and actresses that you probably never thought could have been the next Marie Curie or Neil Armstrong.

  1. Natalie Portman

Real name Natalie Hershlag, you might have known her as Queen Amidala in the Star Wars franchise, as the fiesty kid in “Leon: The Professional,” or in her Oscar Award-winning “Black Swan” performance. Portman’s filmography spans decades and her role choices have ranged from teen romance to psychologically-disturbed and vengeful. However, on top of all these acting wins lies a much larger role as a published scientist.

Her acting career began in 1994, but alongside that Portman managed to be a semifinalist in the Intel Science Talent Search in 1998, when she was in high school, for the co-authored study titled “A Simple Method to Demonstrate the Enzymatic Production of Hydrogen from Sugar.” From then she went on to earn an A.B. in Psychology from Harvard University in 2003.  Reportedly, the actress even skipped the US premier of “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace” in 1999 so she can finish studying for her final exams.

In fact, she has been quoted to have said this in an interview with the New York Post in 2002: “I don’t care if [college] ruins my career. I’d rather be smart than a movie star.”


  1. Rowan Atkinson

You may know Rowan Atkinson for this flawless portrayal of the simple-minded Mr. Bean, but in reality, the British actor is lightyears from being so. Atkinson holds a master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from The Queen’s College Oxford, which he earned in 1975. Before that, he took a B.S. in the same program at Newcastle University.

His choice to pursue the world of acting may have been spurred by financial reasons. In his early days as an actor, he reportedly also worked as a truck (“lorry”) driver for extra income. To date, from his “Mr Bean” stint alone, he is said to be worth over $150 million. Still, on the side, Atkinson writes on occasion for UK auto magazines, being a major car fan himself.


  1. Mayim Bialik

Bialik’s character as Dr Amy Farrah Fowler on hit TV series “The Big Bang Theory” is not too far from who she is in real life. The actress is a certified scientist who is actually still practicing her profession, in addition to robustly cashing in on the iconic show. She holds an undergraduate degree and PhD in neuroscience at the University of California. Before she took home her doctorate, she penned a paper on OCD in those diagnosed with the genetic disorder Prader-Willi syndrome.

In an interview with Neil Degrasse Tyson on The National Geographic, the actress talked about the value of encouraging STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers in girls and working with adolescents with special needs. However, now that she has two sons, Bialik mentioned that her life as an actress gave her more time to be with children than if she chose the much longer hours that came with being a research professor.


  1. Ken Jeong

Ken Jeong may have played the deadbeat and crazy Mr Chow on “The Hangover,” but in the direction this article is going, who he is in real life is the total opposite. Jeong holds a BS in Zoology at Duke University and an BS in Medicine at the University of Carolina. An actual doctor in the real world, the actor managed to juggle his scientific profession with this upward-rising Hollywood career. Jeong has since placed his profession in the back seat to make way for TV and films, though, but says that he will always keep his medical license.


  1. Eva Longoria

Latina bombshell and celebrated actress Eva Longoria is no stranger to science. While filming for her hit show “Desperate Housewives” and a lot of other film and endorsement projects in 2013, she took a master’s degree in Chicano Studies at California State University and closed with a thesis on the value of Latinas in the world of STEM. The actress also has a BS in Kinesiology at Texas A&M University-Kingsville.


  1. Lisa Kudrow

Lisa Kudrow is best known worldwide for being “Phoebe Buffay” on the hit TV show “Friends.” While the character she portrayed was that of a quirky, and sometimes not so bright, masseuse, in real life she may even be more qualified to be a paleontologist than Ross. Lisa holds a BS in Biology at Vassar College. You could say she was exposed to the field of medicine at the earliest possible time because her father, Dr. Lee Kudrow, is a renowned neurologist who specializes in headache medicine. In fact, he founded the California Medical Clinic for Headache, where Lisa also sometimes works. She even shared a project with her father on a study about migraines and how being left- or right-handed affects them. The paper was published on the same year that “Friends” debuted on television.


At this point, if you still think that Hollywood is all about “just acting,” you might want to reconsider. Tinseltown is home to so many geniuses and we’ve mentioned just six.

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